Donor Conceived – To Tell or Not to Tell

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The decision to use donor sperm can sometimes be a scary one.  Reasons vary greatly and every person’s decision is unique and personal.  Whatever the reason may be, once you have made the decision to use donor sperm there might be many questions you will need to think about such as:

  • Will I tell my child(ren) they are donor conceived?
  • How will I tell my child(ren) they were conceived using a donor sperm?
  • Who will you tell about your decision to use a donor? Will you share it with your family, friends, and strangers, or would you rather keep it more private?
  • You will need to prepare for when, years later, your child may ask the inevitable question about where they came from.
  • Will you be open from the start? This is usually the best approach. It will then feel like a normal part of family life as your child grows up.

When confronted with decisions such as these, there are many resources out there for parents to aid in their decision making process. Below are a list of resource ideas you can choose from to help you in your quest for finding the best answers for your family.

– Online support groups.  These can range from others who went through similar situations or even have used the same donor.  When children begin to mature, they might become curious about his/her origins.  By finding support groups or others that were conceived by the same donor online, they might gain important emotional support and biological connections by communicating with half siblings. There are online sites that cater to making these contacts and allow individuals to do so without revealing their identity. Several sperm banks offer forums like these as well to facilitate these connections.

– Books, Articles or blogs are a great resource.  Sometimes you may find other point-of-views or things you might not have thought about that can help you in making your decision or in having the discussion with your child(ren).  There are also books specifically for children to help explain things on their level and in a positive, loving way.

– Webinars or CD’s.  You can find various online webinars or cd’s that will help you talk with your child(ren).   Some feature interviews with professionals who can walk you through the steps.

– ID Option Donor.  If you want your child to have the option of having contact with the donor, you can choose an ID Option donor. This gives your child, with a birth registration, the option of contacting the donor when they are eighteen or older.

Organization links that provide support:

The American Fertility Association: http://www.theafa.org/advice-support/

Online sibling registry: https://www.donorsiblingregistry.com/

Typically, these are the most popular reasons why parents worry about telling their children.

Reasons not to tell

  • I don’t want to confuse my child and disrupt his/her normal childhood.
  • I don’t want to revisit those uncomfortable feelings of shame about infertility. If I tell my child, then I’ll have to tell family members and friends as well.
  • I know I probably should tell, but I fear my child will become angry and reject me when she/he finally finds out. She/he might feel more connected to their genetically related parent and not to me.
  • I don’t think my child needs to know unless the fact of his/her donor conception becomes important, such as for medical reasons.
  • My partner and I disagree over whether to disclose.
  • I worry that telling is not the end of the dialogue or the story, and that I may be unable to answer my child’s questions about his/her genetics or ancestry, so better not to begin the conversation at all.
  • I don’t want my child to think that genetics are all that important.

Below are some reasons people do decide to tell their children.

Reasons to tell

  • Puts honesty at the heart of family relationships.
  • Is respectful of donor conceived children/people as individuals in their own right.
  • Allows donor conceived people to make choices about their lives.
  • Allows donor conceived children to learn about aspects of their history, integrate the knowledge as they grow up and accept their story without shock or distress.
  • Means that significant differences between a child and parent (in looks, talents etc.) can be easily explained.  Some DC (Donor Conceived) adults have thought they must be adopted or the result of an affair by their mother.
  • Means that a true medical history (or lack of it) can be given to doctors, making diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions more accurate.  It also removes anxiety about the inheritance of disorders from the non-genetic parent.

In summary, what works best for your family is key.  Emphasis on “your family”.  Whatever decisions you make, realize that you overcame a huge obstacle in life and proceeded to stay focused and saw that dream of having a baby was going to happen and did.  Life is much more interesting with challenges and obstacles, but it’s all about how we handle them that makes us a stronger, better person. Congratulations on your dream accomplished and best wishes for many years of happiness with your family.

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